Bob Gros was a winner, because he was a leader.
Earlier this month, Gros passed away at his Mathews home at the age of 81. He left a legacy as one of Hahnville High School’s all-time great football coaches, leading the Tigers to two state championships, in 1968 and 1972 respectively. He went on to coach at Nicholls State as an assistant before returning to the prep world at the helm of the Central Lafourche program. With two championship wins each, Gros and Darren Barbier have combined to win four of Hahnville’s six state football crowns.
While gameplanning, Xs and Os are critical to winning, those who played for Gros said the man’s ability to inspire was second to none – and that made all the difference.
“His ability to motivate people, to make you feel like you were a little better than you probably really were (set Gros apart),” said Mike Henderson, who played offensive guard and outside linebacker for Gros on the 1968 state championship Tigers team. “He would take his least athletic guy, 190 pounds, and he’d make them feel like they ran a 4.4 in the 40. He took a negative and made it a positive … someone who made you feel a lot of confidence and made each person feel they were important.
“He was incredible about that. He got the most out of everyone.”
Gros led Hahnville to 58 wins in his six seasons as coach. He went on to be very successful at Central Lafourche as well, winning 116 games over 15 seasons before all was said and done there. Even more impressive was the fact Central Lafourche hadn’t made the playoffs in 15 years prior to Gros taking the team to the postseason in his third year with the program.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne played for two seasons under Gros at Hahnville, and following Gros’ passing Champagne took to social media to remember a coach who taught his players how to be better men.
“I had the great fortune to play for him two seasons before he told us with tears in his eyes he was taking an assistant coaching job at Nicholls,” Champagne wrote. “”I remember it like yesterday … ‘men, I hate to leave you guys, but in this life opportunity may knock but once.’ He could be a gruff, hard driving coach who could cuss like a sailor, but those of us who played under him are better and tougher men now for it.”
Champagne recalled seeing Gros at the Sheriff’s golf tournament a few years ago.
“We talked and he still remembered all my screwups and missed tackles from 30 years back. But he did say ‘you’re doing a good job as Sheriff,’” Champagne quipped.
St. Charles Parish School Board president Sonny Savoie said he didn’t know Gros as well as others, but said Gros was always someone he really admired. Savoie said Gros’ connection with his players was real and long lasting.
“People who played for him loved him. Guys who played for him years ago, in 1967 and 1968, stayed in touch with him until he passed away. We got to see him in 2018 when he and the state champions was honored, and got to see him for the last time. I think that was special for all of us.”
Henderson said Gros had a knack for eliminating the fear of the unknown for his young players.
“You knew he simply wanted us to do our very best to be successful. He always built us up,” Henderson said. “He would get you so pumped up and just made you want to play. He wasn’t critical. He was really positive. ‘We’re gonna beat these guys,’ and then you start winning and you believe in what he’s saying even more.”
. “He always picked you up after a mistake. ‘Ok, you’ll get them next time.’ He didn’t break you down.”
That example taught his players a simple, but forever important lesson.
“You take it with you into life. The sun is gonna come up tomorrow, no matter how you feel today,” Henderson said.